All fishing in Queensland and the Northern Territory for the internationally Endangered scalloped hammerhead shark needs to stop, according to a new report that reveals key protections promised for the species have not been put in place.
The report, jointly commissioned by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI), also calls for Australia’s independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) to reconsider its recommended listing for scalloped hammerheads under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
In 2018, the TSSC advised that scalloped hammerhead sharks qualified to be listed as endangered, but recommended a lesser “conservation dependent” listing based on steps the Northern Territory and Queensland state governments promised to take. HSI had nominated the species for an endangered listing.
Under the law species listed as “conservation dependent” can still be commercially fished as long as there is a management plan in place. Species listed as “endangered” cannot be sold or traded.
But since the listing was confirmed in March 2018 by then federal environment minister Melissa Price, nine of the 30 recommended steps to allow fishing are still not in place.
Report author Dr Nick Rayns, former executive manager of fisheries at the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, said: “Scalloped hammerhead sharks are currently being caught by commercial fishers thanks to a conservation dependent listing but the promised key steps to improve protection for the species have not all been put in place.
“Those key steps include cross validating data from logbooks using electronic monitoring or observers on boats and the introduction of laws to make sure shark fins are not cut off before landing the shark on shore. Without these basic fisheries management rules an endangered species is being put at further risk.
“My analysis shows that fishing for scalloped hammerhead sharks in Queensland and the Northern Territory must stop, and the TSSC must go back and review its recommendations based on what we now know.”
Tooni Mahto, AMCS fisheries campaign manager, said: “Queensland the Northern Territory have had 18 months to follow the recommendations of the scientists, and have failed in their responsibilities.
“This report shows a string of broken promises for the conservation of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Until this is fixed, the Queensland and Northern Territory governments need to stop allowing commercial fishers to catch them.
“We also know that in Queensland, commercial fishers caught and then threw away almost 2,000 scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2018. We have here a species that scientists in Australia know is endangered, and internationally we know it’s Endangered, yet we are failing them. This has to stop.”
The Queensland Government announced some reforms to the fisheries last week, but did not address commercial fishing for hammerheads. The Northern Territory has also not taken sufficient action.
Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI, said: “The Australian Government has a responsibility to look after Endangered species, and we know the scalloped hammerhead shark qualifies as endangered.
“The Threatened Species Scientific Committee was clear about what needed to happen to give us confidence that scalloped hammerhead sharks were not being pushed towards critically low numbers. The committee needs to revisit that listing as a matter of urgency.
“We need the environment minister to intervene here and work with the Queensland and Northern Territory to stop fishing for endangered scalloped hammerheads and an urgent review of this listing must be carried out.”
A full copy of the report by Dr Nick Rayns is available here
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